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Renaissance man Mooney ready to write the next chapter in Ireland's cricketing history

“We don’t want to be known as minnows any more.”

Mooney will once again be crucial to Ireland's chances.
Mooney will once again be crucial to Ireland's chances.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IRELAND’S CRICKETERS ARE under no illusions of the significance of the next six weeks but John Mooney, who has been there and done it all before, believes the side have put themselves in a position to be in control of their own destiny.

Phil Simmons’ side are currently in Sydney preparing for their third World Cup appearance but while the tournament, which begins on Friday, offers Ireland another opportunity to push their case for ascension, there is now a greater level of expectation.

Warren Deutrom, the Cricket Ireland CEO, admitted last week that anything less than qualification from the group stages will be seen as a failure as the progress made over the past eight years means giving the top teams a run for their money no longer cuts it.

The bar has been set high and while Mooney acknowledges the gravity of the tournament for Ireland, the all-rounder insists there is a renewed hunger within the set-up to take the next step.

“Starting with the World Cup, this next block of four years is so important for Irish cricket,” Mooney told The42. ”We’ve done a lot of hard work to get into this position and with Test cricket almost within reaching distance, we’ve now got the platform to be in control of our own destiny.

“We know what it takes and some good wins over the next few weeks would go a long way to take us to where we want to be. The players are hungry because we don’t want to be known as minnows any more.”

Ireland have been drawn in Pool B alongside holders India, South Africa, Pakistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe and fellow Associates UAE. They’ll need at least three wins in order to progress to the quarter-finals with the opening game against the West Indies in Nelson earmarked as an excellent opportunity to get on the board straight away.

John Mooney Mooney will play at his third World Cup in Australia/New Zealand Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“I think the big thing for us is to just go to the West Indies game and not look further than that. There are six games in the group and obviously it’s a big first game but it would be dangerous to start pinpointing certain games in the group.”

Twelve months ago, Ireland toppled the Windies in their own backyard but it was a series Mooney wasn’t involved in. Shortly after arriving in the Caribbean, Cricket Ireland released a short statement revealing the 32-year-old had returned home with a ‘stress-related illness.’

It was the first time Mooney’s enduring battle with depression was made public. A candid and powerful interview on RTÉ’s Game On revealed the severity of his condition as cricket was paled into insignificance.

But for Mooney, cricket is everything. There was a distinct possibility he wouldn’t pull on a green jersey again but he embodies the type of resolve, tenacity and courage that has been the cornerstone of Ireland’s cricketing renaissance.

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After returning to the environment in which he thrives and, by his own admission, feels most comfortable in, Mooney is ready to play another key role for his country on the world stage.

“I can’t wait,” he continues. “This is going to be my third World Cup and the excitement ever since I got the phone call from the selector been building.”

“I played club cricket in Australia a few years ago so I should know the conditions well and hopefully I can bring my good form over there. I know I have a specific role.”

Having taken time away from the game, Mooney returned in September – the same week he spoke about his past so openly. As if he had never been away, the North County all-rounder produced a typically herculean performance against Scotland.

John Mooney The all-rounder scored an incredible 96 against Scotland in September Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

His cameo against England in Bangalore, to get Ireland over the line, may be his most celebrated but the innings in Malahide was arguably his most significant. It didn’t matter Mooney fell four runs short of a maiden ODI century, all four corners of the ground rose in unison for what was a truly indelible moment.

But Mooney is the ultimate team player. His enduring worth to the side has been underlined in recent weeks and having been at the forefront of Ireland’s development, he’s determined to make more history this time around.

“I don’t think it would be a shock if we beat sides, we’ve earned that right. We need to turn over big sides on a regular basis and we’re now more than capable of that – we’ve already shown it.

“Teams will take us lightly at their own cost.”

Ireland play two final warm-up fixtures against Scotland on Tuesday and then Bangladesh two days later. Phil Simmons’ side get their World Cup campaign under way in Nelson on Sunday evening at 10pm Irish time.

You can follow all the build-up to the Cricket World Cup on The42 here.

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Ryan Bailey

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